This article is a follow up on one we wrote earlier about 5 Ways to Improve Learning and Concentration in Kids’ Brains. This time though, we’ll focus on helping teens concentrate longer. The considerations can be slightly different when the kids get older and have to be more independent, managing their own time.
Concentration and increased attention span is correlated with better problem solving skills. As we know, problem solving is the foundation of most learning tasks kids encounter at school. And not only that, as kids get older, the tasks they need to perform become longer, and more ‘brain-consuming.’ How do we help teens concentrate longer, so they can get through a novel, complete a paper, and spend lots of time struggling on math problems? We’ll give some tips in this article.
Start early, and make concentration a part of normal life
Games like memory or ‘eye-spy’ as a child are great exercises for teaching kids to pay attention. These are the types of activities to do when kids are young. As they get older, kids become teens who need to learn to focus longer and longer. While this may be harder for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is a struggle all young children face, and need to work on. In a way, we can think of attention span and concentration as a life skill to be developed.
This article by Parents.com delves into many aspects of helping a young child maintain their attention span.
One important thing brought about is the idea of using a child’s interest to help them learn to concentrate. This can be passed on to the methods used in helping teens learn to concentrate. An English teacher, for example, can assign music lyrics to a struggling student who needs to learn poetry, instead of traditional poetic books taught in schools.
- Spending one-on-one time with your child to figure out how they learn
- Learning how your child learns: making the assessment
However, while we want teens to pursue their interests, at this age in their life, they will need to learn to become more well-rounded individuals. Sometimes that means taking the time to learn and do tasks that are not always enjoyable. As teens enter university, and then working life in their career as adults, they will face the need to fulfill mundane responsibilities with concentration and attention often.
So this is where we can use other types of tasks as kids grow, to get them used to paying attention for longer. For example, we wrote an article on personal growth lessons kids can learn while kayaking. One of these, is mindfulness, which is shown to increase concentration overall. This article states that even playing board games can help with improving attention, among other skills. And, we wrote an article on 7 brain games for kids, which you can check out here.
And, we can learn a lot about focus from those who have to work at it daily. Articles on maintaining ADHD can also give some tips to help teens concentrate longer. We wrote one here:
Get good physical activity to help improve concentration in teens
We brought this out in our earlier article (linked to above), on helping to improve learning and concentration in younger kids. It doesn’t change as we age!
Physical activity is important for many benefits. However, a study shows it is also related to improved concentration and school performance. This is an important need in our schools today, though it can often, incorrectly, seem secondary to academic performance.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a guide on the requirements of activity for children, which can be different at varying ages:
Plus, sports in themselves can teach kids lessons related to staying focused. For example, we wrote about the benefits of kids learning to skateboard, which can teach endurance and perseverance.
See our related article:
Remember to be realistic when teaching teens how to concentrate
Teens are learning how to get a handle on their life. Their workload at school has been gradually increasing. In high school, they are being prepped for university in a lot of ways, especially in grades 11 and 12. But aside from that, they still need to have fun and pursue their extracurricular activities. Many teens also start working part time in this period.
So how do they juggle it all? It can be hard if they haven’t learned how to make a schedule for themselves outside of school. Sometimes parents take on the role of ‘micro managing’ or ‘tiger parenting,’ ensuring teens keep up with their schedule and stay focused. And don’t get us wrong – scheduling and routines can play a part of improving attention span. And helping a teen learn to get organized is also important in teaching them how to concentrate longer.
However, it may be worthwhile taking a hands-off approach so that kids learn how to manage their time, and the amount of things they can concentrate on at a time. Eventually, they will have to teach themselves how to concentrate.
When they try to manage multiple goals – academic, extra-curricular, work, fun – teens may learn that they can’t ‘do it all,’ no matter how much they want to. As this Guardian article states, there is actually a lot going on in teens’ brains, so we can’t expect too much of them, just like we can’t expect much of children.
See our related articles:
- Parenting styles and outcomes: Does “tiger” parenting work?
- How internships, work and volunteer experience can balance a student’s education
- 5 study skills for high school students
- Teach your kids organizational skills
Remove distractions to enhance concentration in teens
Just like with little kids, distractions come at a price – the loss of concentration! This may be an obvious point, but when teens are studying, they need to have a space that encourages only that. If that means music in the background, or (healthy) snack breaks every hour so be it – whatever suits their ability to truly focus and get things done.
However, it is unlikely that incoming texts, TV or internet browsing are going to be conducive to concentration – and this is a practical piece of advice. It is a matter of ‘just doing it’ – hardly any teen will be ‘naturally gifted’ at staying focused when there are distractions all around.
To conclude, helping teens concentrate for longer periods is a matter of lifestyle
Starting to teach kids brain-enhancing skills young, getting physical activity and not ‘overdoing it’ are ways we can help teens concentrate longer. So is the obvious removal of distractions. As you can see, these can all be considered lifestyle habits that have an impact on teens in other ways. We do encourage you to find your own concentration games, and ways of staying focused.